Podcast Review #7: Murder at Avedon Hill

Title: Murder at Avedon Hill
Author: P.G. Holyfield
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 13 June 2007 – 19 May 2009 (yes, you read that correctly)
Located: Podibooks, iTunes, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast, in print 2010 from Dragon Moon Press

I make no secret about loving great fantasy stories. When given a choice, good fantasy tops my reading list everytime. Most of the time this is true for podcasts as well. Back in mid 2008 I was looking for another podcast to add to my list and stumbled upon P.G. Holyfield’s Murder at Avedon Hill.

At the time, I had never heard of P.G. Holyfield and although I had used Podiobooks, I often found my podcasts at iTunes (I use both more equally now). I read the premise and decided this sounded interesting. It sounded a bit dark. A bit brooding. I like both of those. I downloaded the prologue and chapter one (same ep) and gave it a listen.

Which is why I’m reviewing it today.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Lord Avedon has a problem. Generations of Avedons have watched over Avedon Hill and controlled the only pass through the Lantis Mountains. Traditions are important to the Avedon family, but one tradition has tragically come to an end. Gretta Platt, Housemistress of Avedon Manor, has been murdered. A member of the Platt family has always served the Avedons as Housemistress. until now. Only a handful of people live at Avedon Hill, and most are suspects. Arames Kragen, retired Aarronic Advisor and scholar of prophecy, arrives at the gates of Avedon Hill, hoping to gain access to the mountain pass. Lord Avedon is not in a giving mood, however.

This is the story of Arames Kragen and his attempt not only to discover who killed Gretta Platt, but also to uncover the truth about a town that apparently has more secrets than inhabitants.

The Land of Caern: It is a world where the gods, the Children of Az, can choose to be born as mortals to directly affect events in the world, and often do. It is a world where the Priests of Caern frantically search for the mortal incarnations of any of the Children, in order prevent the Prophecies of Iberian from coming to pass. (Synopsis stolen from iTunes.)

Production: Mr. Holyfield did a fine job with the production of the Murder at Avedon Hill. All the volume levels were adequate and consistent, and as I’ve said before, that is really all I really demand. I really enjoyed the theme music for MaAH and hearing the beginning strains of it always made me happy. The only issue I had with the production was the schedule (more later). Mr. Holyfield does a version of TSSF in which he provides a synopsis of the story. While I still don’t enjoy them, with MaAH, some might have found them necessary (foreshadowing).

Cast: MaAH boasts one of the largest casts of any podcast I have ever listened to. When I began it, I wasn’t expecting to hear voices that I was familiar with, but I did. Mr. Holyfield has nearly all of the major players in podcast fiction participating in his podcast, and to be truthful, with better success than I might have dared hope. Early on, I realized that with a podcast the author faces many difficulties with doing a full cast. Not only do you have to find people that have the right voice for the part, but they would need to be willing to provide you with audio week after week. Once you receive that audio, you as the author would have to make sure it was read with the right inflection to provide the next voice with an appropriate opening. Of course, each cast member would probably have substantially different equipment and the sound quality would widely vary. While this goes back to production, it is dealing with a large cast that makes this super-production necessary. Mr. Holyfield and his superlative cast not only did this, but did it so well you would have thought they were all in the same room standing in front of the same microphone. Well done indeed.

Story: Back in the 80’s when I was in HS, there was a movie with Sean Connery and Christian Slater entitled Name of the Rose (Ron Perlman too!) in which a monk does a Sherlock Holmes act and solves the mystery in the end (loved the movie). When I began listening to MaAH, this movie came to mind because it too features a crime solving monk. I soon ran through the episodes that were available and truthfully was surprised when I hit the last one in the queue and the story wasn’t finished. I checked my subscription and ran to podiobooks to make sure that something hadn’t happened. Well, I guess something had happened. Production halted or dramatically slowed down near the end of MaAH. Now, you might think I intend to lambast Mr. Holyfield at this point, but I’m not (although the way he cliffhangered me on more than one occasion tempts me too, LOL).

You see, I look at it this way. I listen to HOURS of podcast fiction every week. I have listened to some of the best stories I’ve ever heard this way. And what have I been charged for it? Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I have to admit that I was worried that Mr. Holyfield wasn’t going to provide an ending, but he did, and it was well done, too. So what do I have to complain about? Again: nothing. In fact, I would like to say thanks again to Mr. Holyfield and to all the other podcast fiction authors that don’t give up. Life happens. I appreciate your dedication to a project that you do for the love of your creation. Thank you all.

Oh, and if you haven’t listened yet, no fear, Murder at Avedon Hill is complete! Mr. Holyfield’s current endeavors include the podcast Tales of the Children which takes place in the same universe as MaAH. He is also providing live readings of these stories on stickam.com.

Verdict: Murder at Avedon Hill might not be to the liking of everyone. It is a genre blending amalgamation of mystery and fantasy with mild horror elements thrown in. However, if you can appreciate a very good story told very well, than I definitely suggest that you subscribe to Murder at Avedon Hill. Strong recommendation.

Disclaimer: I currently follow Mr. Holyfield (@PGHolyfield) on Twitter. He is sardonic and sarcastic and has a rapiers wit (these are all good things in my book). He also likes big laptops. He did not, however, ask me (or provide any incentive) for this review.

Next week: Well, it depends on whether or not J.R. Murdock has finished V&A Shipping.

Comment Pages

There are 6 Comments to "Podcast Review #7: Murder at Avedon Hill"

  • Nice review. I’m glad I started this podiobook after P.G. Finished it! 🙂 It was really fun hearing all of the different podiobooks authors appear in this one. I really enjoyed Patrick McClean’s Tales of The Children short story Old God and the Sea. I know that someday when I run out of new podiobooks to discover (thankfully a long time coming) that this is a podiobook I’m really going to enjoy listening through a second time. I hope he releases the sequal some day. Good review, thanks.

    • odin1eye says:

      LOL.. yes.. this one was a long time waiting for, but it was worth it. I have also been enjoying the Tales of the Children and think PG is doing a marvelous job with it. I also would love to hear a sequel.

  • joccoaa says:

    i started this podiobook at the start, and followed along
    month by month over the two years – the waiting improved the story,
    as i had more time to w=think about the characters, and re-listen
    to each episode twice – loved it

  • JC says:

    This story moves at a pace that is actually perfect for at work listening. The mystery makes it feel that it’s moving faster than it is, but it doesn’t move so fast you have to either stop paying attention to work, or rewind sometimes. That has nothing to to with its quality, but reading the review reminded me of that fact. Also reminded me of Name of the Rose the movie. Own the book, but….well, I own the book. Wish the apprentice had been less bullheaded, act first, think….eventually. Probably a personal preference. Seen it too many times.
    This is a story that feels like a finished, polished work that we are hearing after most of the revisions and edits have already been done. On top of that it feels fresh, original. It’s good world creation. It felt, while listening to it, that it was a place that exists.
    There will be listeners/readers who will be disappointed that it’s not a fast-moving action romp. Understandable, but this work never claims to be any such thing. Whether this concept works for you will depend on if you like either of the two genres separately, fantasy and mystery, Or if you like the two being tossed together. “Hey, you got werewolves in my whodunnit.” “Hey, you got a murder investigation into my medieval fantasy.” It was fun for me.
    The production was enjoyable and impressive. Podcasts tend to fall into a few categories. Full cast productions that are descendants of old radio shows, or the 70s-80s radio audio dramas. Books tend to be read by one person audiobook style. This is an interesting and somewhat rare hybrid. The author reads the main character, but other podcast luminaries read other characters. This could have ended up a complete pile of suck, but it works out rather well. Most podio dramas recorded Internet style, with the various cast members recording their bits separately and sending them electronically, tend to always sound like it, with the actors unable to match to the performances of the other actors, or the sound not gelling well. This is a case where it works out pretty well. Other podcasts should take note.
    This does contain many references to a fleshed out invented religion. Didn’t work for me. Probably because of how I consume podcasts, at work, my level of concentration just wasn’t up for it. I tended to fade out at those points. Maybe that’s just how I feel about religion. Others may enjoy that aspect.
    This story is a good example of why people should try podcasts and podcast novels. It can be a way for an author to create an audience for something that’s just a little too different to easily find its way to store shelves. Some cloudy fall day, I’ll probably want to dig this one out and listen to it a second time.

    • odin1eye says:

      Yes, I think anyone that has seen Name of the Rose will have it called to mind when reading/listening to MaAH.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, and you didn’t have to wait for those long hiatus to end!

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